USGS Picture Puzzle: Do You See Changes to the Coast?

Sep 22, 2014
Before and after photos, New Jersey, Mantoloking Breach

If you are a coastal resident, go to the beach, or are interested in digital volunteering, you can be a tremendous help in identifying and classifying changes that storms make to our coast after severe storms.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has launched iCoast, a Web application where you can view aerial photographs and help classify them. The iCoast Team explains:

We are looking for online volunteers to classify photos taken before and after Hurricane Sandy, and particularly targeting people with different kinds of coastal expertise, disaster skills, and volunteer interests. More background information on iCoast is available in this USGS Top Story article and on the About page of iCoast.

Increasingly, federal agencies are tapping into the expertise of diverse crowds to advance scientific goals. USGS believes that citizen contributions can help scientists improve the accuracy of coastal change prediction models and vulnerability assessments that support pre-storm planning and post-storm rescue, recovery and mitigation efforts.

The images in iCoast are a unique educational tool for anyone who wants to learn about coastal hazards. Students can utilize problems solving skills acquired in “spot the difference” games to identify changes in our coasts due to hurricanes.

Sign up as a digital volunteer, classify a few photos, and help spread the word to your colleagues, students, friends, and family. Email address is required and the program asks for you to share your area of interest and expertise. For those who are tech savvy, explore iCoast open-source project on GitHub.

Questions about this photo analysis project should be directed to and more ways that federal agencies are using crowdsourcing and competitions to work with the most creative, brilliant minds in our communities, go to